Indianola | Inducted 2009 | Category: Professional/Amateur Golfer

Additional Highlights/ Honors

  • 1967     Elected to NAIA Hall of Fame
  • 1984     Charter Member Eastern New Mexico University Hall of Honor
  • 2006     Inducted into the Gateway PGA Section Hall of Fame
  • 9-time qualifier for Club Professional Championship
  • 5-time winner of Gateway PGA Club Professional Championship Qualifier
  • Played in 3 Masters Tournaments
  • Played in 7 U.S. Opens, Finished 5th in 1968
View video from dedication of Steve Spray Lane at Indianola Country Club

Steve Spray’s love for the game put a crimp in the family budget. He was 5 years old when he started to hit golf balls in the backyard of his home in Indianola.

“I could hit a full shot, but I’d break a lot of windows in the garage,” Steve said. ”My dad got tired of replacing those windows.”

But it turned out to be a good investment. Spray became one of the best players to come out of Iowa. When Steve was a teenager, his dad, Floyd, bought him three lessons from Jack Hall, then the pro at Hyperion.

“He said you can have one this year, one next year and one the year after,” Spray said.

His first lesson with Hall, a member of the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame, is one Spray never forgot.

“He didn’t give you a real lesson,” Spray said. “He just brought up your good points. He’d tell you how good you were.”

Hall instilled confidence in Spray. Steve’s mom, Elinor, would take him to the Indianola Country Club every morning, give him two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and buy him two sodas. At the time, the course played to a par of 33, with no par-5s, bunkers or water hazards.

Spray was 13 when he entered his first tournament, the 1953 Iowa Junior Amateur at the Iowa State (now Veenker) course in Ames. He caught the eye of Herman Sani, the director of the Iowa Golf Association. Sani invited Spray to play in the Sani Invitational, and Steve accepted. He shot 104 in the opening round, but the experience fueled his passion for the game. In 1959, Spray became the second recipient of the Herman Sani Scholarship.

Spray developed into an outstanding iron player. That skill was born under a tree on the 7th hole at Indianola Country Club, which didn’t have a range. Spray would rip 5-irons, 7-irons, even 2-irons off the bare dirt.

“I thought, if I’m hitting a 2-iron, I’m swinging pretty good,” he said.

Spray’s first big victory came at the 1958 Iowa Junior Amateur at Finkbine in Iowa City. A victory in the 1959 Western Junior followed. Spray started his college career at Iowa, but transferred to Eastern New Mexico. He was a three-time NAIA all-American there, winning the national title as a sophomore in 1962 and again in 1963. He wasn’t able to play as a senior because of a wrist injury.

Spray also played in the 1961 Masters. The youngest player in the field, he shot 80-79 and missed the cut. Spray was the Iowa Golf Association’s Player of the Year in 1962, when he averaged 71.46 strokes in designated tournaments and had six rounds in the 60s. He won the first two of his seven career Iowa majors that season, the Northwest Amateur and the Central States Amateur.

Spray’s 1963 season was highlighted by his Iowa Amateur victory, at the Clinton Country Club. He also won the Tournament of Champions and defended his Central States Amateur crowns and repeated as the IGA Player of the Year after compiling a 70.64 stroke average. He also reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur at Wakonda in Des Moines, but lost to future Masters champion George Archer, 1 up, when Archer birdied the final hole.

Spray turned pro on Sept. 8, 1964. He teed it two days later in the Iowa Open and went on to win that title at the Ottumwa Country Club.

He joined the PGA Tour in March of 1965, and didn’t make a penny in his first six starts. He had to Monday qualify for the Buick Open, and survived a 16-man playoff for 10 spots. He took the first-round lead with a 68, and got paired in the third round with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. Spray struggled to a 78 and ended up tying for 29th. His first PGA Tour check was for $587.

The 1968 U.S. Open was a career highlight for Spray. He shot a final-round 65, including a back-nine 30, and tied for fifth at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y.. The 65 tied the record for the lowest final round in an Open at the time. The 30 tied the record for lowest nine-hole score.

Spray lost by a shot to Nicklaus at the 1967 Sahara Invitational. Then he broke through with a victory at the San Francisco Open in October of 1969. He matched the Harding Park course record with a 63 in the second round. He parred the first 17 holes of the final round, then made a seven-foot birdie putt on the 18th to finish a shot ahead of Chi Chi Rodriguez.

“I had been so calm,” Spray said in a 1996 interview. “But as soon as I put the putter behind the ball, I was shaking so bad. I can’t believe it went in. My heart was pounding.”

Spray played in at least 11 PGA Tour events each season between 1966 and 1972. He also returned to Hyperion to play in the 1972vSani, and won it.

“I always wanted to win it for Mr. Sani, because he really got me started in golf,” Spray said.

He left the tour to become the head pro at the St. Louis Country Club, and was there for 36 years before retiring. He continued his impressive playing career winning Gateway Section PGA Championships in 1977 and 1979, and was 1984 Gateway Section PGA Player of the Year. He qualified for the National Club Pro Championship nine times.

Spray served as Gateway Section President in 1993-94 and is a member of the Gateway PGA Section Hall of Fame. Additional honors he received include membership in the NAIA Hall of Fame and the Eastern New Mexico University Hall of Honor.

Mr. Spray passed away May 15, 2020, at 79 years of age.

Career Highlights

Amateur Highlights

  • 1958 Iowa Junior Amateur Champion
  • 1959 Western Junior Amateur Champion
  • 1962 Northwest Amateur Champion
  • 1962,1963 Iowa Player of the Year
  • 1962, 1963 Central States Champion
  • 1963 Iowa Amateur Champion
  • 1963 Won the Tournament of Champions
  • U.S. Amateur Quarterfinals in the 1960 U.S. Amateur at St. Louis Country Club and the 1963 U.S. Amateur at Wakonda Club in Des Moines.
  • College at Eastern New Mexico University – NAIA All American, won the individual titles at the NAIA National Tournament in 1962 and 1963.

Professional Highlights

  • 1964 Iowa Open Champion
  • 1966 Waterloo Open (Pro) Champion
  • 1969 San Francisco Open Champion, as a member of the PGA Tour
  • 1972 Herman Sani Champion
  • 1973 Arizona Open and New Mexico Open Champion
  • 1977 & 1979 Gateway PGA Section Champion
  • 1978 T-17 in Club Professional Championship
  • 1984 Gateway PGA Player of the Year
  • Played in 6 PGA Championships
  • Held the U.S. Open Record for low back nine holes, with a 30, for 27 years
  • Played in 3 Senior U.S. Opens
  • Played in 4 Senior PGA Championships
  • Accepted the Position of head golf professional at St. Louis Country Club in 1976
  • Served as Gateway Section President 1993-1994
  • T-14 in 1991 Senior Club Professional Championship
  • T-37 in 1997 Senior Club Professional Championship
  • T-27 in 1998 Senior Club Professional Championship
  • T-37 in 1999 Senior Club Professional Championship
  • T-29 in 2000 Senior Club Professional Championship
  • Bermuda Goodwill Pro-Am Individual Champion in 1977, 1982, 1983, 1988

Additional Highlights/ Honors

  • 1967 Elected to NAIA Hall of Fame
  • 1984 Charter Member Eastern New Mexico University Hall of Honor
  • 2006 Inducted into the Gateway PGA Section Hall of Fame
  • 9-time qualifier for Club Professional Championship
  • 5-time winner of Gateway PGA Club Professional Championship Qualifier
  • Played in 3 Masters Tournaments
  • Played in 7 U.S. Opens, Finished 5th in 1968
On the cover of Golf World Magazine at start of 1969 season.
Winning San Francisco Open
On tour - big hat
Steve at SLCC
Steve was the 2nd Herman Sani Scholar in 1959. Here with fellow PGA Professional Paul Leahy. Paul was a Sani Scholar in 1984.
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